Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Monday directed the government to produce the order, if any, to lease out Halcyon Castle, popularly known as the Kovalam Palace, to Ravi Pillai (RP) Group of Companies. A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice A M Shaffique issued the directive on a petition filed by K Dasan, secretary, Jana Samparka Samiti, Ernakulam, seeking to quash the order to hand over the palace to a private group.
According to the petitioner, the palace should be protected as an ancient monument and handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the Ministry of Culture, which is the premier organisation for archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation. The petitioner submitted that the Cabinet took the decision on the basis of a request from RP Group for permission to use the castle and the adjoining land.
“The political leaders and the bureaucrats are not concerned about the interests of the public and are showing eagerness to handover the palace to the RP Group. The Cabinet decision and all other proceedings before and after, which led to the order, is the result of corrupt practice,” the petitioner said. He submitted that the move of the government to lease out the land was vitiated by mala-fide and favouritism. The government has taken steps to hand over the palace and 10.2 hectares of adjoining land on lease, the petition pointed out.
The court directed the government to produce the order, if any, to lease out the palace to the Ravi Pillai Group.
“The RP Group has made stealthy and sham arrangements with M-Far Hotels which has controlled the palace earlier, for managing and running the property, including the Kovalam Hotel and Resort. Ravi Pillai, a business tycoon having high influence over the Central and state ministers has exerted high influence for handing over the possession of the palace,” the petition said.
The LDF government had taken control of the palace from M-Far Hotels Pvt Ltd, which had acquired possession of the palace when it bought the adjoining ITDC Kovalam Ashoka Beach Resort as part of the Central government’s disinvestment policy. The government had issued the Kovalam Palace (Taking over by Resumption) Ordinance in 2005 for the takeover. The ordinance was quashed by the Kerala High Court in 2011. While doing so, the High Court had ordered maintenance of status-quo and supervision of the castle by the Archaeology Department, the petition said.